Title: The Hangover Part II
Directed By: Todd Phillips
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, Ken Jeong, Paul Giamatti, Jeffrey Tambor, Mason Lee, Jamie Chung
The second the trailer hit, we knew The Hangover Part II was basically The Hangover, but in Thailand. While simply recycling a storyline is generally a cause for concern, that’s really the point of this film, otherwise we’d be getting some sort of odd spinoff or no sequel at all. The Hangover Part II could have failed on just about every cinematic front as long as the boys experienced a drug-induced night of debauchery followed by a hilarious attempt at recovery. Unfortunately, just like the memory of the wolf pack’s big night out in Thailand, funny jokes seemed to have simply slipped the filmmakers’ minds.
With Doug (Justin Bartha) happily married and sunburn-free, it’s Stu’s (Ed Helms) turn to tie the knot, albeit not to a Las Vegas stripper. This time around Stu’s keeping it classy and marrying a beautiful, family oriented woman named Lauren (Jamie Chung). The ceremony is to be held in Thailand where Lauren’s entire family, including her disapproving father and genius of a younger brother, Teddy (Mason Lee), will be on hand. Naturally, coming out to support the groom is none other than his buddies Doug, Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis).
Determined to keep things simple and problem-free, Stu opts out of sharing a beer beside a bon fire with his buddies and Teddy. However, at his fiancée’s urging, Stu heads out to the beach for just one drink. Phil proudly presents a six-pack of sealed beers, but, sure enough, something isn’t quite right and that one beer turns into yet another night Phil, Stu and Alan can’t remember. However, this time around, Doug makes it home safe and sound; it’s Teddy the trio manages to lose in the heart of Bangkok, Thailand.
Sound familiar? The Hangover Part II is the Hangover all over again, but abroad. Yes, some of the shenanigans are altered courtesy of the new locale, but ultimately we join the guys on an incredibly similar misadventure – wake up shocked and trek around town trying to retrace their steps. While some innovation is always necessary, ultimately, the concept of The Hangover lends itself to being used and reused. The thing is, you’ve still got to keep what was so enjoyable about the original intact and while the general premise is present and accounted for, it lacks the zest of the original courtesy of poor pacing, uninspired performances and unfunny jokes.
It’s quite clear things just aren’t the same right off the bat as the opening credits themselves aren’t the least bit visually stimulating. From there we’re re-introduced to the original foursome and while they still appear to be the same guys we met in the original, there’s something awfully mean-spirited about their relationships, particularly with Alan. Stu not wanting to invite Alan to his wedding is understandable, but Alan’s shtick as a “live-in son” isn’t funny, rather deplorable. When he chastises his mother for not bringing him dessert with his lunch, you’re not laughing because it’s funny, rather awkwardly appalling. The same goes for Alan’s interactions with Teddy. Alan doesn’t appreciate Teddy invading his wolf pack uninvited, and while his actions may be harmless and juvenile, they’re so unjustified and out of line for the character we met in the original, Alan becomes a bit unlikeable.
There are some funnier moments when the guys get to Thailand, specifically when Alan attempts to give a speech at a big family dinner, but soon enough, we’re swept away in the familiar post-wild night haze. The first scene of recovery day works well. Stu’s tattooed face, Alan’s shaved head and their new monkey pal all play quite well because their funny concepts and because the scene itself is so well structured. Once the trio hits the pavement, things get a little jumbled.
There’s some extremely convoluted plot centered on Mr. Chow’s (Ken Jeong) duplicitous dealings in Bangkok. It involves a strip club packed with women who aren’t what they seem to be, Russian drug dealers and Paul Giamatti. Yes, in the first film we had the situation with Mr. Chow, the one with Mike Tyson’s tiger and the baby issue, but the film was segmented in a fashion that not only presented each scenario in a clear and concise manner, but in a way that allowed all of the situations to gestate. Here the clues that lead the guys from one place to the next, feel far too out-of-the-blue to maintain a proper flow or keep the film just the slightest bit sensible, which makes it extremely difficult to connect to the story, or the characters for that matter.
While Cooper, Helms and Galifianakis manage to pull off fairly similar performances the second time around, it feels like just that, like they had to do it again. Whereas in the original, all three were creating these characters right before our eyes, here, it feels more like paint-by-numbers; just do what needs to be done to get the same reaction. Then again, this isn’t entirely the cast’s fault as that’s exactly what the script calls for.
The Hangover Part II could have gotten away with just about anything. It had the fan base, malleable source material and room to grow. The killer is that it’s just not funny. Whereas the first time around we got gags that were thoughtful and original, here, the writers seem desperate resorting to more grotesque humor that’s got no chance at having as wide of an appeal. It does have a few amusing moments, a new song from Stu and a super cute monkey, but ultimately, The Hangover Part II lacks any sense of urgency or heart and struggles to earn laughs and, worst of all, is without that band-of-buddies mentality the original thrived on.
By Perri Nemiroff